For many years I’ve had a fascination with time, and with the ways in which we mark its passing. For instance, at the end of Charles Frazier’s award-winning novel Cold Mountain, the widow chops down trees on the ridge of Cold Mountain to notch two places that can be seen from her home. One notch is where the sun rises on the day of the winter solstice, and the other is where it rises on the summer solstice. All year long she watches Cold Mountain, measuring the passing of time as the sun makes its annual arc between the two notches.
In the mid-twentieth century, Swiss watchmakers learned how to make sophisticated mechanical watch movements that are accurate within several seconds a day. Those watches are treasured for their craftsmanship and quality, and they are routinely passed down from one generation to the next. Today, the most sophisticated quartz watches are accurate within several seconds a year, and there is a prototype that claims accuracy at one second a year. Best yet, the inexpensive clock on my desk receives a low frequency radio signal once a day that keeps it synchronized with the US atomic clock in Ft. Collins, Colorado. For all practical purposes, it is one hundred percent accurate.
Now we are marking the arrival of a new year, and I am thinking about time once again. The real challenge for all of us is not measuring the passing of time, but living joyfully in the time we have. This is difficult because when we are engaged in the thinking process, our minds almost always wander to the past or to the future. That is simply the way humans are wired. Unfortunately, living mostly in the past or future is not healthy or joyous. If we obsess long enough about the past, we will inevitably become depressed because the past cannot be changed. If we obsess about the future, we will become anxious because the future cannot be controlled. True joy is found only in the present moment.
I have made only one resolution for this new year, and that is to be more committed to living in the moment. That is a spiritual quest because the present moment is the only place God can be found. It is also more difficult than one might imagine, and I do not think it can be done without prayer. But the psalmist gave us the mantra with which to start every day: “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118) I invite you to join me in reciting it every morning in this Year of our Lord, 2019.
Rev. Don Underwood